Is 2016 going to be the year for “The Pride of Pigtown?” Steve Clevenger hopes so.
The Orioles have a soft spot for players from Baltimore, and Clevenger fits that. In 2015, Clevenger impressed many skeptics in the organization with his work ethic, and now he’s looked upon as a part of next year’s club.
Even with both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph on the roster, Clevenger projects as a third catcher/utility guy.
He’s out of options, he’s left-handed, and he hits well enough to be a sometime designated hitter.
For now, the Orioles have no clue who their DH may be—whether they’ll have a regular one—or if the job will be manned by several position players. In 2015, Jimmy Paredes, whose Orioles future is in question, was the DH 78 times.
Only Paredes and Chris Davis were the DH more often than Clevenger. He started as the DH 18 times and caught six times. The team was 12-12 in his starts.
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Clevenger showed an increased commitment to defense in 2015, and that helped get him back to the big leagues. In 30 games, Clevenger batted .287 with two home runs and 15 RBIs.
Both of his home runs were memorable. On Aug. 17, Clevenger became the first Baltimore bred player to homer in Oriole Park, and on Sept. 11, hit the Orioles second grand slam of the eighth inning against Kansas City.
That inning went on so long that Clevenger didn’t remember that Nolan Reimold’s grand slam had occurred earlier in the eighth.
With both Wieters and Joseph on hand, it would seem that most of Clevenger’s playing time would come at DH, though he’ll have to work hard to keep up his catching skills.
Clevenger could be trade bait, but it seems likely the Orioles will want to hang on to him.
Interestingly, all three catchers will turn 30 early next season. Clevenger’s birthday is Apr. 6, Wieters’ May 21 and Joseph’s is June 18.